Questions | EA Staff Feedback Forum #6: Open Forum

EA Open Forum | July 28, 2020

Topic: Benefits/Campus Services

  • I have been reading about the new Daily Decision parking program that will be rolling out for employees next month. I understand that further information and details will be forthcoming, but I do have one question I am hoping you can address. If an employee chooses to proceed with Daily Decision in August (due to majority of work remaining remote), will they lose their ability to purchase a permit in their current tier in the future (once remote work ends or becomes less frequent)?
  • How will the employee parking work after August 15th? Will there be different options for parking permits on campus? If you currently don’t pay for parking, example, have an A-lot permit, will those employees have an option to purchase a permit for central campus? If not, will Cornell be working with TCAT bus to have more buses running from the A-lot to central campus? Currently they run every 30 minutes and maximum capacity at 20 riders. How soon will the employees who work on campus know of the changes?
  • If we have to get testing done, and miss time at work, will we have to take HAP time? I had to get prescreeing testing for a medical procedure and it took 2.5 hours.

Topic: Campus/Community Health

  • Could you speak more about the "mandatory" testing for students, faculty and staff? Is there a badge we wear that identifies us as tested and negative? How is this information communicated out to the CU community so that we feel safe? The information from other cities that have not had much success when trying to contain the spread includes that test results take time, especially with batch testing, and by then, you have individuals that have unknowingly spread it. Additionally, we have heard that contact tracing can take days, weeks...and that can be ineffective when trying to contain a university-wide pandemic. What ways will we be engaging with contact tracers? Will there be maps of places that CU community members have been that we could be impacted by? Will this information be only on CU website, via an email blast, on the Tompkins County Health department website? I do not think we want to hear that a student made information available to a contact tracer and that we were not informed (which is happening elsewhere via Facebook and Twitter).
  • Our area K-12 districts are currently determining how they can safely orchestrate a return of children to their facilities. Many Cornell staff and faculty will be sending their children to area schools in the Fall. In-person K-12 instruction is good for kids, necessary for many parents, but carries risk. This population of intermingling kids of Cornell staff and faculty also compromises the "green bubble" Cornell is trying to create with surveillance testing. Is there a way Cornell (with the schools, the DOH, Cayuga Medical, and possibly some skilled volunteer labor from Cornell and IC) can help facilitate surveillance testing in area K-12 schools? It would benefit the whole community - including Cornell.
  • Does the requirement to get tested for COVID-19 and/or the "daily checks" apply to staff that are working from home with no plans to come to campus? If yes, why?
  • How, when and where will staff and faculty be tested for COVID-19? Will we be charged for the test?
  • There is information on the Cornell COVID website stating that all students (and employees) will be required to participate in ongoing 'Surveillance Testing' throughout the fall semester. Are staff who may be working remotely for campus reopening and then returning to remote work, be required to be tested throughout the duration of the Fall semester once they've returned to remote work? If so, would folks who are working remotely be able to test at off-campus sites to maintain de-densification of campus?
  • Are staff members who are working from home and do not live in Ithaca or Tompkins County required to come to participate in testing?
  • How will Cornell support parents working remotely who choose ICSD’s virtual learning option for their children?
  • Can Cornell make a cooperative agreement with local school districts to include their employees in its surveillance testing program? This would greatly increase the safety of local schools and help faculty, students, and staff members with children who attend those schools.
  • Will staff be required to get tested? If so, when will this begin? How often?
  • Anne - can you tell us the % of false "Positive" or false "Negative" readings with the current COVID-19 testing procedures?
  • How can an effective quarantine be accomplished with students who live in houses with others, usually many others? They share common spaces. There is the same situation in frats and sororities. How will the required quarantine actually work and how will the health of the larger community be protected?
  • Where can the student arrival data be viewed?
  • I understood that Cornell testing data was to be included in the Tompkins County composite COVID-19 data; however, the numbers don't appear to be there. For example, there was a report for July 16 (or close to that) there were 900 tests; however, TC data does not show 900 tested. Would you please let us know where the data is compiled?
  • Can you please explain the logic behind surveillance testing? If all students are tested upon arrival, quarantined, and social distanced with no visitors are allowed in campus buildings, then what is the risk of a campus exposure?
  • I understand taht IC will not be allowing students from the restricted states to come to their campus. Is Cornell going to follw this same procedure?
  • As a community member and staff member, what is Cornell's approach to the already reported parties/social gatherings that students are having in Collegetown and quite possibly already being included in the Covid positive numbers? Also reportedly coming from people that have returned to the area from some of the states on the quarantine required list.
  • How are you going to know if a student goes home for hte weekend then comes back - how are you tracking that?
  • Would testing therefore be available for families of staff that live on-campus (the family members also live in on-campus housing)?
  • Have you been monitoring off-campus activiities of the students who have returned already? Are they adhering to social distancing?
  • Are there different "types" i.e. methodologies used for diagnostic vs. surveillance testing?
  • Will the public health campaign/compact include how to wear a mask, i.e. wearing under chin or under nose is not protecting your neighbors? Will Cornell speak to an issue for some peopel who can't breath in their masks? Are there some designs that are easier for people with these problems that can be shared?

Topic: Campus Reactivation/Operations

  • What circumstances will define campus closure, move to 100% on-line learning, or other increased restrictions? Other universities are publishing infection rate thresholds. What are these defined circumstances for Cornell and where can staff find this information?
  • Why is it that there are signs on every building stating that masks are required but when I walk through Goldwin Smith Hall there are 20 students without masks not following social distancing. Are they exempt or who is to police the situation? Thank you.
  • What is the status of faculty and staff travel and are there any changes for fall 2020? If information will be communicated on this, it the best reference for this our COVID-19 and Reactivation Planning Travel and Study Abroad page(
  • Why are we being encouraged to do a ride share with co-workers to help with traffic on campus when we are discouraged from having lunch in the same room as them? Should ride share be discouraged due to the close proximity and ventilation with people that you are closer than 6 feet with for long periods of time?
  • 1. Many employees have been left in the dark about department/unit reactivation plans. Prior to reactivation plan approval by college/division, will individual employees have the opportunity to weigh in, and/or approve, what is being proposed for their positions? 2. When will employees who have returned to campus, even on a part-time basis, be required to start COVID testing, and how will that information be communicated to them? Alternatively, can employees choose to be tested at the campus facility ahead of schedule? 3. Question for each panelist (for fun) - what has been your favorite quarantine recipe, or take-out order?
  • Two questions: 1) When will we have clear guidelines on events (meaning meetings or activities that are not coursework)? Many of us wish CU would have a moratorium on all in-person events that aren't coursework for the first 30 days so CU and THCD can see how things are going. Why wouldn't we start in a tighter environment then lighten up as merited? 2) When will the Cornell dashobard of testing numbers and results go live?
  • With such a limited $ of students on Campus/in C-Town and the infections already increasing, how does CU reconcile the inevibility of a very significant increase in the coming month or so?
  • Why is our approach to ignore the daily check questions if you are not coming to campus? It seems that we would be better able to monitor and control spread of the disease if all staff, faculty, and students were required to answer the questions each day.
  • What ideas has Cornell considered to assist on-site essential employees with school aged children given the complexities of child-care and both in-person and online classes for our youth across multiple local school districts? and how can staff be part of ideas brought to leadership?
  • What are the consequences if staff or faculty (and students) on campus do not consent to testing? Many staff on campus share fears of mandatory surveillance testing. Can you assure us that we will keep out jobs if we follow state laws for masks and social distancing guidelines, but do not agree to have our faces probed and essentially penetrated without our consent on a regular basis?
  • So what's the problem with simply making it mandatory to wear masks on pain of losing one's job? This is too serious an issue to not have a strict policy.

Topic: Diversity and Inclusion

  • I have a few questions, and I appreciate you taking the time to consider them. How will Cornell respond to departments who are not moving towards DEI change? In other words, how will Cornell respond to the departments who are not taking steps to create an equitable and inclusive environment in their own areas of the University? On that note, how is DEI action being measured and assessed across the University? I'm afraid that departmental accountability will be moved to the wayside as time goes on. The seminars and resources are great, but how are we making sure that leaders across the University are using what they're learning? Are we making DEI training a requirement for leaders? Also - with our reviews - why isn't there the option for employees to give feedback on their leadership/management? Having a one-way review system like this only furthers the chances of an unqualified leader being promoted. A manager's manager could be happy with their performance while their teams are miserable under that manager's leadership.
  • Will we still be having Campus Community Book Discussions for Dr. Kendi's book “How to Be an Antiracist”?
  • I heard that the HR division has been offering a series of sessions to their staff on combatting or recognizing racism in the workplace and/or in the world. Will that be offered to the greater population of Cornell at some point?
  • I am grateful that the university has created programming to educate people about racism and is encouraging people to educate themselves but what is being done for those that are already informed and those targeted by racism, namely Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color?
  • Will disability have a place in this modeling of Belonging at Cornell?

Topic: FY21 Budget Deficit Measures

  • As a union member working here you say Cornell is going to take 7% off our retirement for endowed workers. but in our union contract it states that you can't change it in the middle of a contract. Also 90% of custodians make less then 40 thousand a year. So, with that being said the only people that will lose from this is an endowed employee. because you can't touch state retirement. And last, Is Cornell going to do anything for the essential employees that have worked thru this pandemic.
  • After having SIP's withheld and a 7% reduction in retirement contributions for employees, how does the University justify the added expenses associated with the implementation of Presidents Pollacks new programs, positions and mandates?
  • Is any thought being given to the long-range impact of the reduction of contract-college salaries for those planning to retire in the next three years? It seems very unfair that while most of us will weather the pay reduction for 12 months, people who are within three years of retiring, will be affected by the pay-cut for the rest of their lives. Is there any plans to restore full salary payment to those who file to retire from NYS in the next three years? It seems like the only fair thing to do.
  • With the July 24 deadline for the Voluntary Retirement Incentive Program, is there a sense of how many staff and faculty took advantage of it? Additionally, is there a plan to consider revisiting or lifting the hiring freeze? It is vital to still keep professional and career growth in mind, even during these different times. There could be potential for some new and alternative ways of looking at job descriptions and responsibilities, as well as new opportunities for a staff member to expand and grow their skill set outside of the Talent Marketplace.
  • How many people have applied for the retirement program?
  • Will they lower the age for early retirement program or have they met the numbers?
  • Are there any updates on the possibility of furloughs for office staff? How will decisions be made with regard to specific colleges/schools?
  • With the reduction in retirement contributions currently set to end on a specific date, is the University 100% committee to resuming those contributions at the 10% level?
  • NYS legislature is looking to pass an early retirement incentive for employees in the NYS retirement program. Are the Contract Colleges employees eligible for this?
  • I came in late, so ignore if this was already answered...undergrads on financial aid usually have work as a component of their aid awards. I'm concerned that they will have trouble finding work as budgets have tightened. How will financial aid awards be adjusted if a student isn't able to earn the work component and needs the funds? Will students be given an additional loan to cover this component?

Topic: Working Remotely

  • Due to the recent pandemic and a shift to remote working/essential on campus work, is there any indication that incentives such as e.g. data plan reimbursements for those of us who have to work in field and in our home office having either run out of data or had to upgrade to unlimited plans because of in the field use (zoom meetings, emails etc.) or at home for the matter of dealing with internet issues, extra energy use? Maybe bring back the old cell phone reimbursement plan. I understand in these challenges times that may not be feasible but just a suggestion.
  • Looking to the future, now that we have shown that Work from Home is viable for a large number of staff, can we look to utilize it as an option for hourly staff in the event of inclement weather? Given the large storm this winter that left many staff trapped when TCAT/Ithaca shut down, it seems like a good solution.
  • Currently we are encouraged to work remotely if at all possible. Do you believe that we may continue to work remotely, say a year or two from now?